The active liberalization of the Russian economy is being carried out simultaneously with moves to strengthen the power of the state. The state is consolidating itself on all fronts, of which the media is one of the most important. The government, evidently, has unleashed a war for the restoration of its monopoly over the distribution and presentation of information.
The immediate cause was the coverage of the President and the government in connection with the loss of the atomic submarine 'Kursk'. The actions of the state were presented to viewers as being cowardly and muddled, i.e. in their true light. It convinced the government that the time had come to put the mass media in its place.
Today the strongest pressure is being exerted on the ORT, where Dorenko - a talented toady of one of the most powerful oligarchs [i.e. Berezovsky, translator's note] - has been kicked out. Also in the RTR information programmes, more and more, the tone is that of the official state line. The remaining bulwark of resistance to this general line is the NTV channel, which is coming under tremendous pressure.
The question is: of what concern to the workers are these conflicts over who controls the media? Of course, even in the past there was no room for consistent Marxist analysis on the airwaves. However, the desire to trample television under foot is only one of the trends of the new information policy of the government, the essence of which consists in the abolition of the freedom of speech. Today revolutionaries have the opportunity to set forth their ideas freely in the pages of their papers, which is something that will soon be just a memory.
Lenin wrote that, "the proletariat cannot be indifferent to the conditions in which it conducts its struggle." Bourgeois democracy, in comparison with bourgeois dictatorship, offers the proletariat more freedom for self-organisation and the defence of its rights, and for preparation to take power into its hands. This is why communists are the most consistent democrats, and why democratic demands are an organic part of our revolutionary programme.
This new approach to the media is outlined in "The doctrine of information security of the Russian Federation", signed by the President on September 9, 2000.
The struggle for control of the television network, which has been conducted by Putin, is presented in the document as a measure to counteract "the monopolisation of the information market, and its separate sectors in Russia, by domestic and foreign information structures" which is described as one of "the threats to the control over information on state policy of the RF". The monopolization of the mass media by the state, it seems, is not considered as a threat! On the contrary, the doctrine outlines the need "to strengthen the state owned mass media" in every possible way and it also outlines the mechanisms for creating a system of total control at every level, over every type of mass media that provides information.
One of the clauses of the doctrine proposes the abolition of censorship, but then every other part of the document goes on to contradict this. Although in words the doctrine calls for "the defence of constitutional rights and freedoms", this is seen to be complementary, and not contradictory to, "the realization of the constitutional limitations of the rights and freedoms of citizens in the interests of the preservation and strengthening of moral values, the traditions of patriotism and humanitarianism, of the health of citizens, of the cultural and intellectual potential of the RF, of the security of the defense capabilities and safety of the state." All these interests are declared to be the priorities of the information policy of the government. Opposition to these interests is judged as a threat to the foundations of the state. The document has a clearly bonapartist nature.
Papers which call for workers' power will not be allowed to be distributed. Publications which encroach upon "the constitutional order, national concensus, the stability of state power, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the RF", will be prosecuted according to the law.
The doctrine asserts that, "the activity of social associations, which is directed towards a violent alteration of the foundations of the constitutional order or the violation of the (territorial) integrity of the RF, the unleashing of social enmity, through the dissemination of these ideas in the mass media" will be banned. The dissemination of information, which "leads to instability in the socio-political situation in society", by expressing ideas on the internal and external political activity of the Russian state contrary to the official line, will be suppressed. To put it briefly: openly speaking about the class position of the proletariat will become impossible.
The doctrine was signed immediately after the President had decreed the authorization for the security forces to tap telephone conversations and to take information from computers without the sanction of the courts.
At the present time, the Duma is discussing a new law regarding the press, which has already been labeled "draconian" in the media. The political careerists and advisers at all levels, who are merely poodles of the state, in line with the spirit of the time, have already raised a hubbub, declaring that "only the Censor can free Russian literature and broadcasting from rascals who fool the minds of the people", (quoted from "The Russian Federation today, No. 18, 21.)
Putin has been summoned "to restore order". He carries out liberal economic policies at the same time as he rigorously clamps down on any resistance to these reforms on the part of the workers with the other.
However, the situation cannot be compared to that in Chile in 1973, where Pinochet came to power on the bones of a defeated working class. Today in Russia, a significant part of the population has greeted Putin with high hopes. Therefore, in the short term a bloody dictatorship along the lines of Pinochet's is unlikely. The 'creeping' dictatorship of Putin will develop with mass support.
But, very quickly, the working class will inevitably come to understand that its conditions of poverty and social inequality are not due to some abstract "democracy", but are the normal state of affairs under capitalism. Neither bourgeois democracy, nor bourgeois dictatorship can guarantee the material interests of the working class. The workers will inevitably draw the conclusion, once again, that the only solution to today's problems is the final annihilation of the capitalist system itself.